Circle of One – What is “Home”?

Last Tuesday, while driving home after work, and later while on the cross-trainer at the Y, I was thinking about having lived in Edmonton since Dec 1978, and considered that I’ve spent half my life in Winnipeg, and half in Edmonton. From Sept 1976-April 1977, and Sept 1977-April 1978, I lived in residence at the U of A while attending library school, but never really considered that “living” in Edmonton. While still living in Winnipeg in the 70s, I had an aquarium in my bedroom. When I moved here permanently in the fall of 1978, I decided not to set up another aquarium, thinking I wouldn’t necessarily be here for a long time. I’m still here, and haven’t set up another aquarium.

What’s odd is that Edmonton still doesn’t feel like home. Winnipeg will always be my home town, that can’t change. I’m not sure why Edmonton has never felt like “home”; I’m no longer sure, if ever, what the word means anymore. Perhaps I’ve never known the meaning.

In late June I turn 50. Friends remind me that it is just a number, and (correctly) to stop obsessing about it. But it’s a number of considerable significance. However you look at it, turning 50 represents a watershed moment in one’s life – half a century of life, and cause to reflect on what has brought you to that moment in time. I don’t know what it will mean to be 50, or how I should feel. Generally I still feel like a kid. Ten years ago I asked my Dad years ago how he felt physically at 65, and he said no different from being 18, other than the body slows down quite a bit.

When I was 18, I assumed my life would follow a similar path to that of my father’s: I would get married in my late 20s, find a house somewhere in Winnipeg, with or without a white picket fence, have children, bring them to the grandparents’ house on Sundays for dinner, mow the lawn, play some guitar, work at whatever job or career I moved into, hang out with friends, and so on.

None of this happened. I never intended to leave Winnipeg – it was (and still is) a fine place to live. Instead, after graduating in 1978, I returned to Winnipeg and couldn’t find any professional library positions that summer. That September, I returned to Edmonton, eventually landing a position in the public library system in December, 1978. (Which in itself is a story I’ll leave for much, much later. Suffice it to say that I consider the time from Dec 78 to Feb 83 as four years and three months of my life I’d love to have back. There is resentment, but resentment is like drinking poison and hoping someone else will die.)

In my life, I consider two events to have had major impact on the rest of my life (other than birth.) In the summer of 1966, my family drove to Vancouver to spend time with my mom’s brother, Uncle Roland and his family. What I didn’t know at the time was that my father was investigating the option of working on Vancouver Island, in Port Alice of all places. If he have decided to move, who knows what would have happened to the rest of us. In a sense, this event was a non-event: a decision not to do something.

In 1969, my parents decided to move to another section of St Boniface, Manitoba, where we were living. (St Boniface was one of seven cities which merged into Winnipeg in 1971). We moved from a district called Norwood to another one called Windsor Park (there’s one in every city). I was terrified of the move – I would be attending a high school that at the time had one of the worst reputations in metro Winnipeg for delinquent students harrassing teachers, etc. I had spent Grades 1-10 avoiding and dealing with asshole bullies and other creeps, so didn’t relish the thought of moving to where it might get worse. Instead, Grades 11 and 12 would be the two best years of school for me.

In the summer of 1971, after Grade 12, I got a job organizing street parties in Windsor Park with another student from my high school, part of an OFY Grant (Opportunities for Youth). The various jobs were supervised by the deacon of our church. At the fifth street party, I was sitting in a lawn chair when two older women approached me whom I’d not met before. They introduced themselves, told me they were friends of the deacon, and asked if I would consider playing guitar for them when they sang at an upcoming wedding. The women and I became permanent friends to this day: one is a provincial court judge in Calgary, and the other is the head of Ottawa Public Library. Wait a minute – did I say “library”?

While studying computer science at the U of Manitoba in 1971-73, I found myself disliking learning about Fortran and systems analysis, and reasoning that I needed to complete something, switched to mathematics and graduated in 1975. That September I was hired as a library assistant at a branch of Winnipeg Public Library, and followed that by attending library school at the U of Alberta as noted above. Despite my best efforts to land a job locally in Winnipeg between April and Sept of 1978, it never happened. And so I ended up in Edmonton. The rest, as they say, is history.

I’m not sure where this is going. I can see that I’m trying to somehow weave together my age and the fact that both halves of my life have been spent in two cities. Maybe I’m reaching out to find something that will help me define “home”.

What defines “home” for you? Is it where your roots are? It is where you’ve planted them? Does it matter to you? Why or why not?

4 Responses to “Circle of One – What is “Home”?”

  1. Murph Says:

    You were meant to be in Edmonton so that I would end up in PG with a great wife and two wonderful boys. I did OK by you, you know.

    Home is still Edmonton, BTW. I wasn’t born there, but from 3 months to 37 years, that’s where I was. But I’m lucky, in that I have this little unit I carry around with me, so that home is also where they are.

    D

  2. Murph Says:

    PS. For some reason, Logan feels more like home to me than does PG, even though we were only there for 14 months. But Bren learned to walk there (among other momentous childhood events), and I think because I wasn’t working I had more time to get involved in the community, so that may have been an influence.

    I may blog on this.

    D

  3. randy Says:

    I appreciate the words and thoughts. It’s important to know a person has had a positive impact on others – it’s cliche, but it reaffirms why we are alive.

    I’m not sure if I purposely avoided the obvious, but being single and having been w/o a girlfriend since 1988 obviously has an impact on how or what I consider to be “home”. The support and love of friends, however, should never be underestimated or taken for granted.

    One part of me thinks I’m looking too hard at this.

    R

  4. Steve40 Says:

    Home is where you go to to shut out the rest of the world. I Have gone to many places, but at the end of the travels, I look forward to getting home and just being myself. Home is where the core of your being longs to be when you are travelled, partied, worked, and plain old tuckered out.

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